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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish communities of Greater Manchester

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Forum holds a very successful iftar

19 May 2019

An iftar is the meal eaten at the end of a day of fasting during Ramadan. At one time very few non-Muslims recognised the word “iftar” even though it was in the Oxford English Dictionary, but now you see it regularly in newspapers.

The Forum has long believed that getting people to eat together is one of the best ways of building social cohesion. That is why religion and culture put so much emphasis on "Breaking bread together."

That is why we have organised an iftar every year since 2013, open to people of all faiths and none. This year it was again hosted for us by Khizra Mosque on Cheetham Hill Road. The leaders of this mosque believe their mosque should be for the whole community, not just for Muslims.

About 50 people attended. Our Muslim Co-Chair Mohammed Amin MBE opened the event, and our Jewish Co-Chair Cllr Heather Fletcher was the Master of Ceremonies.

There was a glittering array of speakers:

  1. Solicitor Sajjad Amin gave a slide presentation about the outreach work of Khizra Mosque, as well as explaining the details of fasting.
  2. Forum Executive members physiotherapist June Rosen spoke her about her interfaith journey. It began when she was three years’ old; as the daughter of a Jewish councillor her parents often took her along on visits to churches. She has never looked back! (Her talk can be read below.)
  3. Forum Company Secretary Tahara Amin, retired headteacher of the Manchester Muslim Preparatory School gave a very personal account of what fasting during Ramadan meant to her as a child, with her maternal grandfather visiting with his white hair, white beard, white clothes and white horse; and what it means to her in retirement when she can devote more time to reading the Quran.
  4. We had two senior politicians.
    1. Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, spoke about the spirit of Manchester.
    2. Afzal Khan CBE, MP for Manchester Gorton, spoke as a founder of the Forum.
  5. The keynote speaker was Mark Adlestone OBE DL, Chairman of Beaverbrooks the Jewellers and High Sheriff of Greater Manchester. He said that the diversity of Manchester was illustrated by him being Jewish and becoming High Sheriff in succession to a Muslim, Robina Shah. (His talk can be read below.)

Forum Executive member Seamus Martin, who is from Northern Ireland and a convert to Islam gave an entertaining vote of thanks.

The importance of holding these events is illustrated by the fact that at least one of the ladies present was attending her first ever iftar.

Saby Khan, the operations director of Bradford Asian Radio stated "This was an amazing event organised by the Muslim Jewish Forum and Khizra Mosque. There were so many good people there and so much creativity and it was good to see people there from diverse backgrounds talking about helping each other and to cap it all we had a lovely Iftar meal."

Jay Charara, Vice Chair at the Jewish Rep Council of Greater Manchester & Region said, "I would like to thank the MJF and all at Khizra Mosque for a wonderful evening, very interesting company and great food."

The group photograph below was taken in the Peace Garden at Khizra Mosque.

High Sherriff Mark Adlestone is resplendent in his uniform. To his right are Jawad Amin, like his brother Sajjad, part of the Khizra Mosque’s management; and Forum Co-Chair Mohammed Amin wearing tinted glasses.

In front of the High Sheriff, wearing yellow and white, is Cllr Heather Fletcher.

To the High Sheriff’s left are Graham Stringer MP and Afzal Khan MP.

Tahara Amin is on the extreme left of the picture, wearing black with a yellow hijab. Next is Alderman Nilofar Siddiqi, then June Rosen and Jay Charara also wearing tinted glasses.

Former Lord Mayor of Manchester and Forum Executive member Cllr Naeem Ul Hassan is wearing a suit at the right of the picture.

Group photo taken in Khizra Mosque Peace Garden

June Rosen's speech

My interfaith journey started when I was about 3 years old. My father was at that time a Manchester City councillor for the New Cross ward and he and my mother very often took me round with them to their many engagements,

By the time I was 10 I think I had been to every type of place of worship that there was in the city at that time. My father always said that all prayers go to the same address!

I realise now what a privileged childhood that gave me.

Later I went to a very religious Church of England school where people felt that as Christianity was so important to them, Judaism must be equally important to me. I was one of only 8 Jewish girls and met with nothing but respect, interest, kindness and consideration. It was also there that I made friends with girls from Pakistan, Thailand, Africa and India, casting new light on my interfaith journey.

They were happy days.

Then I went to train as a physiotherapist at a Manchester hospital – 60 years working in the NHS, meeting people of every faith or none, often in their darkest hours, or at the end of life.

This gave me an even deeper understanding of faith.

In 2005 the late Henry Guterman, together with Afzal Khan, the then Lord mayor, set up the Muslim Jewish Forum of greater Manchester, to bring Muslims and Jews together, to learn about each other’s faiths and to form close social and cultural ties. There has been some surprise when we find how often that both faiths do things the same and how similar our faiths are in so many ways. We have forged many lasting friendships.

One of the forum’s first visits was to a mosque in Levenshulme. On speaking to the elderly imam I was very moved to hear of the help that my late father had given in setting up the mosque originally, when he had been the MP for that constituency many years ago.

My interfaith journey has taken me a long way, down many avenues, but all of them enriching my life so much. It has all been a great privilege.

I wonder whether such a varied journey could have been possible in any other city than in this great city of Manchester.

The High Sheriff’s speech

The High Sheriff was speaking from some notes. He has kindly supplied those notes to us, which we have edited very lightly to make complete sentences that are easier to read for people who were not present at the iftar.

The speech

Thank you for inviting me to the Muslim Jewish Forum Annual Iftar at Khizra Mosque. Thank you for this very positive event and Khizra Mosque for opening your doors.

As mentioned in the introduction, Beaverbrooks is committed to charity and £13m has been donated by Beaverbrooks to over 750 charities since 2000.

When I became High Sheriff, I was struck by the fact that I took over from Robina Shah who is a wonderful Muslim lady. It shows the spirit of Manchester that a Jew has followed a Muslim.

This morning I attended a Civic ceremony at Manchester Cathedral for the installation of the new Lord Mayor, where many faiths were represented. Such inter-faith mixing is vital. I felt very emotional at the event, seeing the different faiths coming together and praying together: Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhist, Jains, etc.

The new Lord Mayor came from a small village in the Punjab, Pakistan. It was a very proud moment with streaming live to Pakistan TV. Consuls from Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Republic of Iraq were present.

My own great grandparents themselves came to Britain from Kovno in Russian Poland.

Being a citizen of the United Kingdom is to accept a profound bond with your fellow citizens. Attaching yourself to a community with roots and practices, traditions and institutions is an essential part of defending our rights.

As a child I loved to hear the stories of the old kings and queens of England. But I reflect that when the Tudor monarchs reigned, or even the Georgians, my ancestors were not here. They lived under distant emperors. 

Thankfully our family chose the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom accepted us. Their countrymen gave us a home and our liberty and our peace. 

The human condition is ever fragile, and I am acutely aware of the human capacity to turn very quickly towards the greatest levels of cruelty. We know that racism is a very light sleeper.

History has shown time and time again that all of us as Jews and Muslims are merely resident by the grace of God, and liberty is bestowed upon us by the benevolence of the ruling Monarch or Government.

And that is why I am so passionate about this country and our Queen and why I feel so privileged to have been presented with my OBE by Her Majesty The Queen herself in 2015 and also to have been given the honour this year of the position of High Sheriff of Greater Manchester. It is almost inconceivable that over 135 years on from a small Jewish enclave in Kovno, Russian Poland, this fourth-generation immigrant finds himself honoured in such a way.

Even today, especially today, we are constantly reminded of the painful truth of the fragility of democracy and the need to constantly defend and support our commitment to tolerance, diversity and human rights. When we look around the world, we see so many people who are not free and who suffer cruelly at the hands of oppressive leaders. I realise how precious our liberty is, and equally how quickly it can be snatched away. 

I cherish our democracy.

I accepted this privileged position of High Sheriff of Greater Manchester as a proud British Jew and will strive to represent both the Shrievalty and my community with equal passion. 

Greater Manchester has always welcomed and celebrated its cultural and ethnic diversity and the enrichment it brings to the life of the city.

Trust and patriotism are both critical.

Diversity only becomes a strength if people of different ethnicities and faiths can come together around shared goals, often national causes, for the common good. Lack of contact between groups breeds suspicion of the unknown, undermining trust. This acts as a barrier to developing an effective national cross-community response to all forms of extremism. 

These are symptoms of an illness brought about by our broken politics.

By indulging in identity politics and championing difference over integration, the liberal-left has sown the seeds of group-based social division. 

But equally the right has been complicit in the destruction of community by aggressively championing individualism and materialism.

What we are left with is a nation in which different groups increasingly live separate existences, without any real sense of common purpose or shared destiny.

Extremism endangers the safety of law-abiding people and seeks to relegate the importance of the nation. 

The fostering of a civic patriotism is the key to challenging this. We must focus on increasing patriotism and the bonds that join us all.

Do you sing the National Anthem? Do you pray for protection and health and the wisdom of the Royal Family?

I would like to see my role as High Sheriff as influencing our different communities towards a proud patriotism, where our nation state is a source of common pride. I will try and engage with those people who whilst living here feel disconnected from this country. I will aim to understand their position and if possible, influence their thinking.

 

 

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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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